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Women’s Health In The U.S. Gets An “F”

The Oregon Health and Science University has published its fifth report card since 2000. It grades and ranks the United States on 26 health-status indicators for women. In 2010, not one state received an overall “satisfactory” grade for women’s health, and just two states — Vermont and Massachusetts — received a “satisfactory-minus” grade. Overall, the nation is so far from meeting the goals set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that it receives an overall grade of “unsatisfactory.”

The national report card uses status indicators to assess women’s health:

  • Women’s access to healthcare services (medically under-served area, no abortion provider, no health insurance and first trimester prenatal care)
  • Wellness  (screening mammograms, colorectal cancer, pap smears, cholesterol)
  • Prevention (leisure time physical activity, obesity, eating five fruits and veggies/day, binge drinking, annual dental visits, smoking)
  • Key conditions (coronary heart disease death rate, lung cancer death, stroke death, breast cancer death)
  • Chronic conditions (high blood pressure, diabetes, AIDS, arthritis, osteoporosis)
  • Reproductive health (chlamydia, maternal mortality, unintended pregnancies)
  • Mental health
  • Violence against women 
  • Infant mortality rate
  • Life expectancy
  • Poverty
  • High school completion
  • Wage gap
  • The score on these varied status indicators fluctuated depending upon which state a woman lives. California and New Jersey ranked highest on state health policies, while Idaho and South Dakota ranked last on policies.

    Since the publication of the first report card in 2000, the nation made progress on several women’s health indicators including lower death rates from coronary heart disease, stroke, breast and lung cancer. Smoking declined and more women received colorectal screening. That’s good news.

    The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) will have significant positive implications for women’s health. Unfortunately most of it won’t begin until 2014, when expansions in healthcare coverage and improvements in preventive care go into effect. Family planning services will be covered under Medicaid and smoking cessation treatment will be covered.

    The PPACA will also protect women from health discrimination and will not allow insurers to charge a woman more because of her gender. (Being a woman is not a “pre-existing condition!”) It will also ensure health services including maternity and newborn care, mental health care, and preventive services.

    We have a long way to go to bring this report card from unsatisfactory to an “A.” At least it tells us where we are now and points the way to what’s needed for women to be healthy. We can’t deny that improvements in healthcare policy at a federal and state level are critical to keep moving forward.

    Addendum: In re-reading this post after a good night’s sleep, it’s important to point out that I’d rather be a woman in the U.S. than about 75 percent of the rest of the world. To understand and help women in the most oppressed parts of the world, go to Women for Women International.

    *This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*

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    One Response to “Women’s Health In The U.S. Gets An “F””

    1. Although the report is intended to show the status of health for women, it would not be surprising if many of the results applied equally for men as well. Both the handling of chronic medical conditions and prevention do not seem something that the for-profit insurance system is capable of addressing.

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